When our phone rang at 8:00 A.M., I knew my husband’s aunt had dialed. Aunt Yola is an early riser who makes her calls as soon as she is certain the recipients are up. Because Mike continues to recover from foot surgery, I guessed that Aunt Yola called to check on his progress. My suspicions were confirmed as soon as I heard, “Hi Aunt Yola! How are you?” Before beginning this writing, I listened to Mike’s end of the conversation. Mike has always been a special nephew to Aunt Yola and I imagined her face filled with concern as Mike chronicled his ordeal. Before returning to my writing, I allowed myself a stroll down Memory Lane…
Phone calls between Mike and Aunt Yola have been commonplace over the years. Early on, Aunt Yola’s and Uncle Franks’ daughter answered the telephone for her parents. Mary habitually sped past them in anticipation of the opportunity to announce a caller. Mary was a master of voice recognition and she correctly identified anyone she had heard over the phone at least once. After offering her greeting, Mary called, “It’s Aunt Jennie!” or “It’s Michael!” or “It’s Mary Ellen!” How did she do it?
When Mike and I were engaged, I asked if Mary could join my niece as a flower girl for our wedding. Mary exuded life and she lifted the spirits of everyone in her proximity. She would certainly have stolen the show that day, but who would have minded? Unfortunately, a full day of celebration would have been too much for her. Mary had endured poor health since birth. She had a weak heart and many other symptoms which accompanied Down’s Syndrome half a century ago. Mary’s doctor and the rest of us agreed that it was her parents’ tireless and loving care that kept Mary with us for so long. As it happened, Mary attended our wedding and then spent the rest of the day with her aunt. She left her mark on the ceremony with her sweet announcement, “Here comes Mary Ellen!” as my dad escorted me down the aisle.
Over the years, Mary brightened our family gatherings and frightened us a few times with threatening illnesses. When a call eventually announced Mary’s recovery, a collective sigh rose from near and far. As different as their lives had been from the expected, Aunt Yola and Uncle Frank thanked God with all of their hearts every time their little girl recovered. Mary would be a difficult little lady to live without. She read story books and enjoyed math. Mary’s belief in Santa and her devotion to Jesus remained for her entire life. Mary’s innocence brought uncommon peace to their home. As Mary’s parents aged, their forever little girl kept them young at heart.
Mary was twenty-two when serious illness threatened once again. Uncle Frank and Aunt Yola alerted all concerned that a persistent cold had developed into something much worse. They knew Mary well and noticed even the smallest changes in her energy level. Mary had been growing weaker for some time. In the hospital, with those she loved at her bedside, Mary drifted in and out of a peaceful sleep. When she woke for the last time, Mary told her parents that she was going to see Jesus “pretty soon.” And that she did. Afterward, Aunt Yola and Uncle Frank, shed many a tear. Still, when we went to their home to sit with them, all they could talk about was Mary’s joy over being with Jesus and the things Mary knew now that she had never known before. All they could talk about was how special Mary was and how it was Jesus himself who greeted their Little Mary with open arms.
I share Mary’s story with you because the miracle which was Mary’s life reflects the spirit of Jesus’ miracles in Mark’s gospel (Mark 5:21-43). With absolute faith, a temple official went to Jesus to seek his daughter’s cure. Though others discouraged Jairus, he persisted in seeking Jesus’ help. With absolute faith, Jairus lead Jesus to his little girl. You know, it was with absolute faith that Aunt Yola and Uncle Frank brought Jesus to their little girl as well. When it mattered most, Jairus left his daughter in Jesus’ care. When it mattered most, Uncle Frank and Aunt Yola did the same.
Though the outcomes for these two daughters seem very different to us, they ended precisely the same. When Jairus’ daughter and Mary took Jesus’ hand, he led each of them to new life. Jairus’ daughter shared that life with her father for a time. Mary shared that life with Jesus. In both cases, the outcome was the best it could be, and so it will be for you and me.
©2015 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved